On 26 October, the Climate Parliament organised a virtual parliamentary roundtable on smart cooking, in partnership with the Modern Energy Cooking Services (MECS) programme. Climate Parliament has placed significant emphasis on clean cooking in recent years, and has actively engaged with MPs on the topic on various occasions, through parliamentary roundtables and an in-person event co-sponsored with MECS in South Africa in February 2023. Climate Parliament is also a partner of the Global eCooking Coalition (GeCCo).
Why transition to clean cooking?
Prof Ed Brown, Research Director for MECS, outlined the harmful consequences of cooking with biomass. Burning firewood and charcoal to cook has harmful effects on health, the environment, and the economy.
Every year, nearly 4 million people, predominantly women and children, die from indoor pollution resulting from the use of biomass for cooking.
Buring biomass to cook also contributes to environmental problems such as deforestation, pollution and loss of biodiversity. The burning of residential solid fuels accounts for up to 58 percent of global black carbon emissions. While black carbon emissions dissipate quickly, their impacts are far-reaching.
The task of collecting firewood also imposes a significant time burden on women, limiting their ability to engage in productive or income-generating activities.
Today, 4 billion people still lack access to clean cooking essentials, making it one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that lags furthest behind. SDG7 sets a target of achieving universal access to modern energy cooking fuels by 2030.
Building a new narrative around clean cooking
The main reason for the lack of adoption of clean cooking is the lack of political prioritization. This is an aspect of daily life which has too often been perceived as a women's issue and has not received enough attention within the predominantly male-dominated political sphere.
The price argument: There are widespread misconceptions that electric cooking is more expensive than cooking with biomass. In a majority of cases, this is no longer true:
Efficient electric cooking appliances that use a fraction of the energy of conventional hotplates are now available in local markets (e.g. rice cookers, electric pressure cookers) and are price competitive
The price of traditional fuels has increased where wood fuel has become increasingly scarce.
The MECS team have evidence from many countries that cooking with electricity, both on-grid and off-grid can be cost competitive with traditional methods.
In Kenya, for example, a country which has one of the highest prices of electricity in Africa, cooking with electricity is cost competitive and cheaper than using any other type of fuel. In addition to the benefits for health and air quality, smart cooking is also a real economic opportunity with money and time saved, freeing up women in particular to engage in productive or income-generating activities .
Graph from MECS Kenya eCookbook, 2019
What can MPs do to promote clean cooking?
MECS proposes a holistic model designed to accelerate the deployment of electric cooking, involving three key components on which policymakers and energy regulators have a significant role to play:
Promoting an enabling policy environment for electric cooking (tariffs incentives, lowering import taxes etc.)
Raise consumer awareness and gaining insights into people's cooking practices, including the types of meals they prepare and the fuels they currently use. This information helps in developing more effective strategies to encourage a switch to electric cooking.
Working collaboratively with private companies throughout the entire supply chain to enhance the supply of electric pressure cookers.
Uganda – a clean cooking tariff
Eliza Cocksworth, Network and Finance Coordinator of the Climate Parliament, conducted an interview with Patrick Tutembe, Principal Economist at the Ugandan Electricity Regulatory Authority. Patrick explained Uganda's innovative approach to setting tariffs to encourage people to switch to electric cooking. Initially, a specialised tariff for electric cooking was implemented in public institutions such as hospitals, schools and prisons, developed in collaboration with utilities and other stakeholders. This drew on studies and tools provided by MECS to compare the costs of various energy sources. In comparison to the standard domestic energy tariff of 21 cents per kWh, the electric cooking tariff is set at 11 cents per kWh, which provides a significant incentive for consumers to make the switch to electric cooking. Prior to the introduction of this tariff, electric cooking was not even on Uganda's political agenda. The tariff sparked discussions about electric cooking and it has now become an integral part of a national clean cooking strategy. Many people now recognise that electric cooking is one of the most efficient and cost-effective options, especially when using electric pressure cookers.
Kenya – parliamentary motion on clean cooking
Léa Hillaireau, Programme Manager of the Climate Parliament conducted a second interview with Senator Hamida Kibwana from Kenya, who has been at the forefront of a motion on clean cooking in the Kenyan parliament. Senator Hamida elaborated on the numerous challenges that have been impeding progress on the clean cooking agenda in Kenya. In the Senate, discussions about the motion often revolved around the high cost of electricity in the country, as opposed to LLPG, and the perception that transitioning to electric cooking would pose economic challenges for many households, despite evidence-based research suggesting otherwise. However, there are positive indications that Kenya is elevating its commitment to clean cooking and taking significant steps in that direction. They include public awareness campaigns, Kenya Power's goal of stimulating demand to reach 3 million electric cooking appliances in three years, aiming for universal access to clean cooking by 2028, and establishing a network of clean cooking champions.
During the Q&A that followed, MPs raised a number of important questions. In the case of Nigeria, the country’s vast population, the majority of whom live in rural areas and use biomass for cooking, provides a challenge to implementing electric cooking. There needs to be wider access to electric cooking in Nigeria, in terms of both affordability and grid connections. MPs from Malawi recognised the significant role women play in this debate, and questioned how the women’s caucus in parliament could become more actively involved in working with MECS to implement electric cooking in rural areas. MECS representatives agreed that there are gendered implications of the kinds of interventions that they are promoting, and that the role of women in raising the profile of clean cooking issues is significant. The role of women in acting as mentors and champions within the communities they live in is also important – in Kenya, community hubs have been successfully developed where women are building their own businesses related to electric cooking and taking on entrepreneurial roles in their communities.